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Best Drills for Ball Machines

by Xavier Lim, on Jan 12, 2021 6:23:02 PM

As technology in tennis advances, ball machines are becoming more popular than ever before. Hitting the same spot every single time whilst never getting tired are two reasons why a ball machine is the perfect practice partner. With this in mind, drills that emphasise repetition, consistency and accuracy are best suited to training sessions with a ball machine. Another key area of development that can see great improvement after drilling with a ball machine is movement. However, you must never use a ball machine as a substitute for live opponents. In reality, no two balls will ever be the same. Training purely with a ball machine leaves one susceptible to not being prepared to handle live ball situations.

Drill #1 – Spanish drill with recovery

Drill: The ball machine will be firing into either the forehand or backhand corner. Players should start in the middle before running out to hit the ball. After hitting the ball, players should recover to the middle of the court as explosive and quickly as possible. Markers can be used to clearly indicate the point of recover for players. Direction and type of shot can be changed depending on the players technical and tactical focus.

Aim: The aim of this drill is to develop explosive lateral movement with control at the player’s end range.

Repetitions: As explosive movement is the focus of this drill; players should be aiming to hit less shots within sets. However, each shot and movement should be completed with end range intensity. Players should also take ample time to recover before the next set.

 

Drill #2 – Accuracy

Drill: The ball machine can be firing to either the forehand, backhand or alternating sides. Depending on where the ball machine is firing, players can choose to recover to the middle or not. Players will be aiming for markers that have been set up.

Aim: The aim of this drill is to improve accuracy. With the ball machine able to give the perfect shot every time, player’s accuracy will improve as they begin to feel more comfortable with the shot.

Repetitions: As accuracy will only improve with high amounts of practice, players should aim to do sets of at least 15 balls. This will let the feeling of accuracy on the respective shot to be committed to muscle memory.

 

Drill #3 – Width of shot

Drill: The ball machine can be firing to either the forehand, backhand or alternating sides. Drop down lines should be laid from at least half-way between the centre line and single sideline, depending on the margins and width players are trying to achieve. This drill can be done with or without recovery.

Aim: In this drill, players are aiming to hit around the outside of the ball to hit cross court with width. This will move opponents off the court, creating open space in the opposite corner. As the lines are set closer to the sideline, players are forced to hit with greater angle.

Repetitions: This drill can be done with recovery, thus, leading to fatigue. If recovery and fatigue are seen to be important parts of this drill, sets of at least 12 repetitions should be completed. If there is no recovery and players do not come under fatigue, sets can contain upwards of 20 repetitions in order to create muscle memory.

 

Drill #4 – Depth of shot

Drill: The ball machine can be firing to either the forehand, backhand or alternating sides. Drop down lines should be laid from at least half-way between the service line and baseline, depending on the margins and depth players are trying to achieve. This drill can be done with or without recovery.

Aim: In this drill, players are aiming to hit through the ball in order to land the ball deeper in the court. This will move opponents back off the court, creating open space in the forecourt. As the lines are set closer to the baseline, players are forced to hit with greater depth.

Repetitions: This drill can be done with recovery, which will lead to fatigue. If recovery and fatigue are seen to be important parts of this drill, sets of at least 12 repetitions should be completed. If there is no recovery and players do not come under fatigue, sets can contain upwards of 20 repetitions in order to create muscle memory.

 

 

Drill #5 – Patterns of play

Cross court angles are commonly seen in patterns of play in order to open up space on the opposite side of the court. This drill will be centred around the play of crosscourt, crosscourt, down-the-line.

Drill: The ball machine will fire cross court into either the forehand or backhand. As this is an offensive pattern of play, players should generally have the ball fed to their strength.

Aim:
The aim of this drill is to develop the skill of changing direction in an offensive manner. After striking a high-quality crosscourt shot, players should look to hit down-the-line into the open court.


Repetitions:
As offensive plays should ideally be played only once a point, high sets and low repetitions will see the most benefit from this exercise. These sets should be completed with high intensity and explosive movement in order to either win the point or be very clearly in control.

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